In mid-November, after Toronto Mayor Rob Ford admitted to smoking crack, getting behind the wheel of a car intoxicated, and—long pause—purchasing drugs in the past two years, municipal leaders voted to strip him of nearly all his powers.

The 37-5 vote slashed the mayor’s staff and budget and shifted the majority of his duties to Norm Kelly. Despite the Ford brothers’ many warnings about Kuwaiti invasions and dark days for democracy, the mood in Toronto morphed from wonder to collective relief. For once we thought we had the best of both worlds. Ford was a figurehead. He was dethroned but on display—a glorified jester under a newly appointed king who had everything the mayor didn’t. Kelly was strong jawed, stoic, reliably boring (read, Canadian) and most importantly: in the event of an official state of emergency–an alien invasion say, or an ice storm that threatened to ruin Christmas—Kelly would hold the reigns.

Today that emergency is here and we were wrong. Approximately 115,000 Torontonians remain without hydro and will likely spend Christmas in the dark. On Monday night, 11 people were rushed to T.O. hospitals with signs of carbon monoxide poisoning and two died, just outside the city. Meanwhile, Rob Ford, Toronto’s seemingly powerless figurehead, has far more power than we thought. Kelly may be required under the law to take power in an official state of emergency but Ford—limited role notwithstanding—is the only city official capable of declaring one; something he has yet to do and likely won’t at his own peril.

In a press conference this morning the mayor made clear that declaring an emergency would be fruitless as outsider crews—from Windsor and Michigan– were already assisting our own. Cynics suspect Ford won’t act because to do so would mean ceding power to Kelly. Others think his reticence is perfectly logical and that he is wary of pulling a Mel Lastman circa 1999.

Whatever his reasoning, one thing remains certain. In failing to declare an emergency Ford has squandered a perfect opportunity to redeem himself. Handing emergency powers to Kelly would be seen as an enormous and uncharacteristic gesture in humility on Ford’s part. It doesn’t hurt either that the catastrophe in question is an icy one.

After all, an ice storm is exactly the kind of stereotypically Canadian everyman situation in which Ford should excel. He and his kin have always prided themselves in their tireless fieldwork, be it solving constituents’ garbage collection issues, handing out 20-dollar bills, or returning thousands upon thousands of phone calls. Ford would, you’d think, throw himself into this storm Chris Christie style. He’d take to the streets while Kelly sat cozy in his cloistered office making frantic phone calls to the army, and make it known that while he isn’t crazy about gays, bike, and taxes, he is completely crazy about getting Toronto back to “business as usual.”

Yet, Ford’s storm presence has so far been utterly lackluster. According to the Toronto Star, he was unreachable Sunday morning when roughly 300,000 people lost power. (CP24’s Katie Simpson tweeted that the mayor “can’t remember” what he was doing the morning of Dec. 22). The only communication Ford had with Torontonians Sunday morning was via Twitter: a tweet from his account, probably operated by an exasperated staffer, encouraged residents to call 911 if their power lines were down. This advice was not only erroneous (residents are supposed to call the police’s main line if power lines are down); it’s exceedingly annoying for 911 dispatchers who have to waste time fielding non-emergency calls. Ford’s social media incompetence has inspired whomever runs the mayor’s usually hilarious Twitter parody account, “T.O. Mayor Rob Frod,” to tweet serious and up-to-date storm safety advice because in his or her own words, “the mayor isn’t”.

When Calgary was nearly swamped this spring, Twitter users of that city publicly urged exhausted mayor Naheed Nenshi to “take a nap,” with the hashtag #Nap4Nenshi. Here in Toronto, Ford needs no encouragement. On the Globe and Mail’s website you can watch the mayor tour one of Toronto’s “warming centres” and literally test the cots. The verdict? “Pretty comfortable considering,” he says.

The mayor’s last presser was this morning. He read off some useful information about health and safety, but left many Torontonians angry and panicked with the news that his next update would come 27 hours later, at 11 a.m. on Christmas morning.

The irony in all of this is that Ford is usually very good at appealing to peoples’ practical sides, even people who sometimes loath him for his obvious personal foibles. The story goes, among Ford Nation—the mayor’s uber-faithful fanbase—that the man has personal issues but unlike other politicians in elitist city hall, he is there for you when it counts. It will be interesting then, to see how the mayor’s supporters respond to his spotty ice storm presence in the long run. They may not care that he can’t recall exactly when or where he smoked crack cocaine, but here’s hoping they care that on the morning of December 22, when Toronto’s trees keeled over, its power lines froze, and its refrigerators died, mayor Rob Ford was Missing In Action.

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  1. Like I said, Ford is still the mayor. And Norm Kelly is a nobody.

    But don’t expect to ‘strip’ Ford of his power….and then have him save your butts.

    • Dumb move by Ford – all he had to do was declare an emergency, let Kelly take over and he could have been out doing his ‘common man’ routine – lifting up a few tree branches, taking some food to the masses, toys for the kids. He’d make a great Santa. What a missed opportunity for him.

      • Ahh but they claimed he didn’t have any ’emergency powers’….so he didn’t use any. ‘Declaring an emergency’ is just a paperwork formality.

        • Try to keep up.

          • Merry Xmas.

      • Ford did exactly the right thing and he acted as the responsible chief executive officer of the City that he is. This isn’t a catastrophe with the City bombed out or destroyed by a hurricane.

        This is a simple matter. The power lines are down and it’s the responsibility of Toronto Hydro to employ whatever resources are necessary to get it running and in this case to make sure that lines are not at risk from falling trees in the first place.

        Ford did exactly the right thing and he exposed once again the incompetence of the elected wacko councillors and Kelly busy playing high school politics instead of doing the job we pay them a king’s ransom to do.

        And this is the second time in two weeks that Toronto Hydro, and its overpaid hierarchy, finds itself in the hot seat

        • “…to make sure that lines are not at risk from falling trees in the first place” Yes, by cutting down all the trees. All of them.

          And you’ve mixed up Toronto Hydro with Ontario Power Generation. This does not bode well for the veracity of your outrage.

          • Well OK chief, since you’re the electrical wizard extraordinaire what part of this Toronto mess do you think belongs to Ontario Power Generation?

          • None. None of it does.

          • I think the moment you use the (incorrectly spelled) term “overpaid hyerarchy” you’ve pretty much given up on rational discussion.

          • You can “think” what you like, your opinion is worthless.

        • What if this happens over and over again?
          The infrastructure is broken…laws must be changed, human lives were put in danger…the long term health consequences are huge,,,

      • Oh yes. Ford is such an idiot for not taking advantage of a serious situation for political gain. Where was Justin Trudeau when Ford needed some good advice on capitalizing on other people’s misfortune.

    • Are you suggesting that otherwise he would save everybody’s butts, EmilyOne? It sounds to me like sometimes he’s in no condition even wipe his own.

      • He is still the mayor…and everything still goes through him.

        Which is a good thing seeing as Norm Kelly the deputy mayor hopped off to Florida for Xmas.

  2. Para. 2: I believe that should read, “… take the reins.” Good article. Thank you, Emma.

  3. How many Torontonians, freezing in the cold, have you put up? Talk the big walk.

  4. Ford declares a state of emergency and he would be attacked as a cynical opportunist. Likely by this very writer, and most certainly by the Toronto/Ottawa chattering class.
    Ford is in a pathetic state. However, there is a very real possibility he overcomes his demons, gets “clean” perhaps gets control of his health generally, and becomes an even more powerful (redeemed) political force.
    The redemption for the media “elites” that gleefully wallowed along, unable to resist becoming part of the tawdry spectacle themselves, will prove to be much, much harder. The near euphoric revelry engaged in by many of the media will leave a putrid taste in the mouths of many Canadians for a long time to come.
    The media had its own demons. Demons they are unlikely to overcome anytime soon.

    • I agree there was no need to declare a state of emergency. It was (still is) pretty bad but I don’t see what additional benefit could be gained from such a declaration.

      However, why was Ford MIA? Was he off on another binge? If so, and if he did so in the face of the forecast (which was pretty clear in terms of what was coming) then he was clearly not living up to the job title – stripped of powers or not.

      • Was Ford MIA? Is it really the Mayor of Toronto’s job to be watching weather forcasts and reassuring the people of Toronto that the sun will rise the next day, despite the impending weather doom? Is it suddenly the mayor’s job to make sure that the electricity stays on?

        Where was Kathleen Wynne during this whole “ordeal”? Why isn’t her job performance in question, when by all media accounts she was talking to the Deputy mayor, who didn’t actually have any control of the situation and wasn’t even in town? How is that even remotely as competent as what Ford was doing, while he was “MIA”?

    • One of the best comments I’ve seen in a very long time. Especially the last two paragraphs – starting with “The redemption …”

      However, I would make one small addition, and modify your second last statement as follows: “The near euphoric revelry engaged in by many of the media and image driven politicians and “academics” will leave a putrid taste in the mouths of many Canadians for a long time to come.”

      • Have the decency to give your sockpuppet a name at least, “Charles.”

        • This is wonderful. To you I am really a “Richard”. To others here I am “Biff, Kody” or some such other name.
          A remarkable display in the desperate search for the ad homonym to be sure. I suspect the last thing folks like the above wish to do is actually debate the idea. Drive by smears are so much safer, lest one have their arguments shown wrong.

        • I totally agree with Charles is a Richard.

          That was easy. And fun!

      • You are truly awesome. This is the best follow up to the best comment in recorded history.


  5. The storm was tragic, and I feel for all those who have suffered so much over Christmas. It is not a surprise that the left-wing media only uses this to bash Rob Ford even more. Frankly I am mildly surprised that they have not blamed the storm itself on Rob Ford. It shows that even those who revel in anti-Ford press have their limits, which is a good thing.

  6. Hey Teitel…where was Wynne’s handpicked point person Norm Kelly on Christmas, in the middle of the emergency?

    Pretty lucky Ford didn’t declare one while he was away, eh?

    Now back to your regularly scheduled agenda.

  7. Yet, Ford’s storm presence has so far been utterly lackluster. According to the Toronto Star

    Just stop right there.

  8. Indeed. Why didn’t Ford cede power to a man who was in Florida at the time? That OBVIOUSLY would have made the power come back on sooner.

    Ford will win re-election mostly because the rabid left-wing Toronto media are attempting to make every good thing he does into some type of catastrophe. All he does day-in and day-out is prove over and over again that he’s a perfectly competent mayor.

    Does anybody even remember what a joke Mel Lastman’s considered after he called in the army to clear the streets? He’s literally the punch-line to jokes all across Canada, yet Toronto’s chattering classes would want Ford to prove himself to be equally incompetent? Please.

  9. Toronto has been cursed with idiots….